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Advocating Palestine in the United Nations

Written by  BADIL Staff

Badil’s International Advocacy in January-March 2010

Follow-up on the Goldstone Report, UN, New York - in November 2009, the UN General Assembly had endorsed the report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (“Goldstone Report”) and called upon the Israeli and the Palestinian sides to conduct investigations into the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in line with the Goldstone recommendations. Since then, Israel has not implemented investigations in conformity with international standards, and the Palestinian authorities have equally failed to comply with the requirements of the UN. In February 2010, three of the six months alloted to the domestic investigations had lapsed and an initial assessment was due by the UN Secretary-General. The latter, however, failed to assess the measures carried out by the parties of the conflict, and the General Assembly decided to extended the period for the investigations at the domestic level for another five (instead of the initial three) months.1

Follow-up on the Goldstone Report, HRC, Geneva - on 22 March 2010, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), which originally dispatched the Goldstone Mission, also convened a follow-up session on the implementation of the Goldstone Mission’s recommendations. Badil, together with 14 NGOs,2 lobbied the Council inter alia to: (1) Use all means at its disposal to hasten the process of accountability and achieve justice for the victims as indicated in the Mission’s Report; (2) Call upon the GA to establish an independent committee of experts to monitor and assess the effectiveness and genuineness of domestic investigations carried out by the parties to the conflict; (3) Call upon the GA to establish an escrow fund for Palestinian victims as called for in the Goldstone Report; and (4) Continue to review the implementation of the Mission’s Report.3 The Human Rights Council eventually passed a resolution calling upon the High Commissioner to explore and determine the appropriate modalities for the establishment of an escrow fund for the provision of reparation to the Palestinian victims. Moreover, the Council decided to establish a committee of independent experts in international humanitarian and human rights law to monitor and assess any domestic, legal or other proceedings undertaken by both parties to the conflict.4

HRC resolution on Israel’s violations in the OPT - Badil, together with PCHR and WACLAC, intervened with another oral statement on ongoing forced internal displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian population, while emphasizing that the land confiscation, settlement expansion, house demolition, forced evictions and the construction of the Wall are measures used by the Israeli occupying power to illegally change the demographic composition in the OPT. The Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the OPT, including East Jerusalem, and reaffirmed that settlements, the separation Wall, as well as demolition of homes and evictions are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to the peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible. Moreover, it demanded Israel to “immediately stop its illegal decision to demolish a large number of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem, including in the neighborhood area of Al-Bustan in Silwan, and the evacuation of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem, which is resulting in the displacement of more than two thousand resident Palestinians of East Jerusalem.”5

Lobbying against PLO/PA deferral of the Falk Report - another item scheduled for discussion by the Human Rights Council was the periodical report of Prof. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.6 Shockingly, this report was removed from the agenda of the Council following the request of the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN in Geneva. In his report, Professor Falk supported the full implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone Mission’s report, yet he addressed some of the shortfalls in the findings of that report. For instance, he criticized the Mission for failing to make a finding of aggression in Israel’s act of launching the attack on the Gaza Strip, and that it took for granted the dubious proposition that Israel was entitled to act against the Gaza Strip in self-defense. Falk also questioned whether the rather restrictive legal framing of the fact-finding mission’s inquiry was suitable for this one-sided or asymmetric encounter, in which the Palestinian side lacked any substantial weaponry to defend itself against one of the world’s most powerful armies, while Israel defined its military targets as extending to the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. Falk also urged the members of the Human Rights Council to convey to their governments a call for the implementation of the Goldstone report in relation to the exercise of universal jurisdiction. In addition, he addressed Israeli settlement activities in the OPT and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights and the continuing blockade of Gaza.

Professor Falk’s courage in upholding human rights is exceptionally prominent in the two final sections of the report. The first of these is one in which he called upon those engaged in the peace process to muster the will to address the Palestinian refugee question and uphold the rights of Palestinian refugees. The second is one in which he called on the members of the Human Rights Council to consider the Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a means of implementing human rights, including the right of self-determination, and to provide guidelines for such campaign.

Instead of supporting the Special Rapporteur’s report and lobby state members to endorse its recommendations, the PLO representative to the UN lobbied for the deferral of the report to the June 2010 session for reasons that can at best be described as incoherent. A letter signed by almost twenty NGOs was sent to President Mahmoud Abbas expressing concern about the PLO’s stance regarding the Falk report. It also called upon the PLO to withdraw its request for deferral.7 Similar letters were sent to the members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

In addition, Badil, together with twelve Palestinian and international NGOs, sent letters to each member state of the Human Rights Council, the Council’s President, and the High Commissioner expressing concern over the removal of the Special Rapporteur’s Report, and stressing the urgent need to defend the independence of UN Special Procedures. The letter asked the member states to act immediately to ensure that the report be kept on the Council’s agenda. Without the support of the PLO representative, however, the civil society request and concerns were ignored, and the Council did not discuss the report.

Mamilla petition and BADIL side-event at the HRC - on 18 March 2010, Badil organized a side-event to the Human Rights Council’s session in Geneva’s Palais des Nations titled Palestinian cultural rights and religious freedoms in light of Israel’s persistent violations of international law. The main purpose of the side-event was to raise awareness and lobby the seventy governmental and NGO delegates who attended the side-event, includeding the Palestinian Deputy Ambassador, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs special envoy to the session of the Human Rights Council, the Ambassador of the League of Arab States, as well as the ambassadors of Greece and Egyptian and Saudi Arabian diplomats.

Professor Georges Abi-Saab, Honorary Professor of International Law at the University of Geneva, was one of the panelists, and spoke about the status of Jerusalem in international law and ways to make the HRC more effective in addressing Israeli violations of cultural and religious right. Ms. Huda Al-Imam, Director of the Center for Jerusalem Studies at Al-Quds University shared her personal experience in Jerusalem and addressed the denial of cultural and religious freedoms under Israeli occupation, presenting the cases of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi, Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Mamilla Cemetery. The third panelist was Ms. Rania Madi, Badil’s representative in Geneva, who used her detailed knowledge of the Human Rights Council and related legal instruments and processes to place religious and cultural issues in the broader human rights context, linking them to the question of displaced persons, evictions, protection of refugees and the Judaization of Jerusalem. During the presentations, Badil presented a slide-show of 100 new and captioned photographs of settlers roaming through Haram al Sharif under military escort (immodestly dressed in some cases), flags over the city walls, tunneling, the new Hurva Synagogue and other settler outposts in the old city, preventing worshipers from reaching holy sites.

In the same vein, Badil endorsed the petition led by the US Center for Constitutional Rights that called for urgent action on human rights violations in Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery in Jerusalem by Israel. This petition is a response to the ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court that the construction of the “museum of tolerance” on Mamilla Cemetery was lawful, thereby allowing the excavation of ancient tombs and removal of hundreds of human remains from part of the historic cemetery.8 The UN Human Rights Council expressed its grave concern regarding the above and called upon Israel to immediately desist from such illegal activities therein.9

Endnotes
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1. UNGA, Follow-up Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (II), A/64/L.48, 23 February 2010.
2. Adalah - The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association;Al Mezan; Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights-Gaza; Al-Haq; Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA); Defence for Children International (DCI) - Palestine Section; International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR); Physicians for Human Rights- srael; The Gaza Community Mental Health Program; The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; The National Center for Community Rehabilitation; and Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC).
3. Badil and others, More than One year after "Operation Cast Lead": Distressing Lack of Accountability and Justice for the Victims of the Conflict, Joint Oral and Written Statements to the Human Rights Council, March 2010.
4. UNHRC, Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, A/HRC/13/L.30, 22 March 2010.
5. UNHRC, The Grave Human Rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, A/HRC/13/L.29, 19 March 2010.
6. UNHRC, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/HRC/13.53, January 2010.
7. Badil and others, The Palestinian Position regarding the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967 A/HRC/13/53, A letter to President Mahmoud Abbas, 25 February 2010 (in Arabic).
8. HCJ 52/06., Al Aqsa Association for tge Development of the Assets if the Muslim Waqfin the land of Israel ltd. V. The Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum Corp., 29 October 2008.
9. UNHRC, The Grave Human Rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, A/HRC/13/L.29, 19 March 2010.
 

BADIL Staff

BADIL Staff

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights is an independent, community-based non-profit organization mandated to defend and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees and IDPs. Our vision, missions, programs and relationships are defined by our Palestinian identity and the principles of international law, in particular international human rights law. We seek to advance the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people on this basis.